Vega Style #55 c 1915 | $4450 | (v1923) The Vega company has a long and convoluted history, beginning in the later ninteenth century and continuing into the seventies when it was purchased by Martin guitars, who then sold the brand to an Asian conglomerate. By 1903 the company was called Vega, and was producing high quality banjos with mandolins and guitars added to the lineup. This Vega guitar has the serial number 25437 stamped on top of its headstock. Although there is a fairly comprehensive list of Vega banjo serial numbers, no such list exists for guitars, although some suggest that the banjo and guitar numbers do correlate. If that were true, this serial number would date the guitar to 1909. Other clues help to determine a date range. This guitar is listed in an early Vega catalog as a Style No. 55. The catalog lists the address of the Vega company as 62 Sudbury St., Boston, Mass. We know that the factory burned and was relocated to Columbus Ave. in 1917, so it's likely that this instrument dates to somewhere pre 1920 (A 1920s Vega catalog with the Columbus Ave. address lists no Style No. 55).
Although there are few examples out there to compare, the extant Vega guitars all appear well made from quality materials. In typical marketing hyberbole of the era the catalog states: "Skilled workmanship and selected woods are in evidence in every line of this beautiful instrument." After close inspection of the guitar, we would tend to agree. The craftsmanship and materials are on par with what one would expect from Martin or Weymann. The No. 55 listed at $47.50 which is consistent with other quality instruments of the day.
The back and sides are bookmatched Brazilian rosewood. The top is a clear grade of red spruce with ladder bracing. The top is trimmed in layers of colorful marquetry and white binding. The back is trimmed in various layers of black/white purfling and white binding, and features a colorful marquetry strip down the center. The neck is mahogany, carved in a modern-feeling C-shape, bound in white and features a two-layered white/black heel cap. The fingerboard is ebony and features various engraved pearl position markers. The headstock features a Brazilian overlay. The original tuners are quality Waverly or Dinsmore & Jager type strip tuners with stamped diagonal line ornamentation. The sound hole features the older gold and black Vega label. The original bridge is replaced with an exact ebony replica. Several of the ebony/pearl dot bridge pins are original, with a few replacements. The end pin and bone nut are replacements.
This was a quite large guitar in its day, similar to a 00-28. The body measures 14 1/2" across at the lower bout and body depth is 4 3/8" at the end pin, which makes it deeper than 00 or 000s of the era. Scale length is 25 1/32". The neck measures 1 7/8" across at the nut, and string spacing is 2 5/16" across at the saddle.
We had the neck professionally reset at Brothers Music in Wind Gap, PA. We crafted a replica bridge and had the pearl inlays etched and installed by a former Martin inlay pro. A small section of spruce was added between the brace below the sound hole and the original brace/bridge plate to stiffen that area of the top. Two back cracks in the lower bass bout area were glued, and a 2" top crack glued and cleated. A split through the end block/end pin hole was glued and cleated. Old tailpiece holes in the end pin area were filled. The frets were leveled and dressed. The guitar, overall, still shimmers with its original glow, with a few minor nicks and bumps.
This is an exceptional acoustic guitar in all its facets: build, materials, playability and especially tone. One would expect to spend many more thousands to get this kind of tone. The large and deep body surely contributes a lot, as do the quality materials. Although ladder braced, one would think they're playing a 1920s/30 rosewood Martin. The tone is rich, full with great definition and sustain, and doesn't get muddy. The Vega catalog in the 1920s notes that their guitars are strung with gut strings, but steel strings can be special ordered. We currently have this one strung with silk and steel and they are a fine complement for optimum tone.
Comes with an early, purple-lined soft case in good condition.
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